Music blog

Music news and views

08 May 2013

Steve Martland

Steve Martland (c) Schott Music LtdWe were very saddened to hear of the death of Steve Martland, one of the most innovative British composers of his generation. Born in Liverpool in 1959, he studied composition with Louis Andriessen in The Hague. In many of his works one can hear the influence of American minimalism refracted through Andriessen's lens, but with many new aspects thrown in for good measure: a relentless rhythmic drive, very often amplified wind instruments, elements of jazz and rock, and a disciplined concern for overall form which perhaps owes something to his friend Michael Tippett.

The British Library acquired all of Steve Martland's music manuscripts in 2009: he was determined at that time to continue composing only on screen, not on paper. They offer a fascinating glimpse into his compositional laboratory, with extensive correspondence, research notes, sketches, rhythmic plans and draft scores preceding the final score, always meticulously neat and precise. This rich archive should provide much food for thought for future generations of researchers and musicians seeking to draw new inspiration from his legacy.

Steve Martland's masterpiece is Babi Yar, for very large orchestra. It was first performed on 22 November 1983 by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, and a week later by the St Louis Symphony Orchestra. The score was extensively revised for a later performance in Glasgow. This page from the full score shows the extensive revisions - with a new bottle of correction fluid for every page! - as well as a characteristically abrasive, defiant instruction to the horns: 'VERY WILD! Bells in the air. Grace notes as fast as possible to create a wild, blurred, "wailing"'.

Martland Babi Yar

Steve Martland, Babi Yar, full score. Copyright Schott Music Ltd. BL MS Mus. 1783


The comments to this entry are closed.